For the first time in years, the grip of Chinese brands on India’s smartphone market seems to be loosening. Chinese phones made up 81 per cent of sales on the eve of the lockdown imposed to curb Covid-19 spread. Upon the lifting of the lockdown, its share has fallen to 72 per cent.
“This was mainly due to the mixture of stuttering supply for some major Chinese brands and the growing anti-China sentiment that was compounded by stringent actions taken by the government to ban more than 50 apps of Chinese origin and delay the import of goods from China amid extra scrutiny. This all resulted from the India-China border dispute in June,” explains Shilpi Jain, research analyst at Counterpoint Research, the telecom sector consultancy which studies the sales and shipments.
However, even if their overall share has fallen by a whopping 9 per cent, individual big brands such as Xiaomi, Vivo etc are still doing pretty well, with the drop coming more from smaller brands. And, as was seen with the ‘Made in India’ campaign blitzkrieg by market leader Xiaomi following the India-China border clashes, the Chinese seem well entrenched in India’s telecom sector.
“Local manufacturing, R&D operations, attractive value-for-money offerings and strong channel entrenchment by Chinese brands leaves very few options for consumers to choose from,” Jain added.
On the bright side, India’s mobile phone market has not only crossed the half billion milestone, it also seems to have rebounded pretty strongly, as figures as well as the spate of new launches show. While lockdown spelt zero sales in April and some days in May, indications are that it has rebounded enough to be at pre-Covid levels by June. Korean brand Samsung says its sales reached 94 per cent of pre-Covid levels, making it the second largest brand in the April-June period.
However, it remains to be seen if the overall figures will pick up later in the year, as the year-on-year sales figures of the quarter is about half of last year, at just 1.8 crore smartphones. But hope abounds. “The pandemic wiped out almost 40 days of production as well as the sales of smartphones due to the nation-wide lockdown,” explains Prachir Singh, senior research analyst at Counterpoint. “During May, govt allowed shops to open and online channel deliveries for non-essential items. As a result, the market witnessed a surge in sales as the lockdown restrictions were slowly lifted.”